WILTON — The Grant Cottage State Historic Site on Mount McGregor is getting all its power from an array of solar panels and is off the commercial power grid, state officials announced Monday.
The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced the conversion took place in partnership with the state Energy Research and Development Authority. It is the first State Parks facility to go entirely off the grid, though there has been a concerted effort to add solar power to park facilities across the state.
The cottage and 43 surrounding acres are the preserved 19th-Century mountaintop residence where U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant completed his highly respected memoirs — which focus on his Army career and leadership of Union forces during the Civil War, not his presidency — shortly before his death in the summer of 1885. A new solar-powered micro-grid is now providing 100% of the electricity needed by the two-story residence and its nearby visitors’ center.
“This project reflects our commitment at State Parks to grow the use of renewable energy and reduce reliance on energy from fossil fuels and its climate-changing emissions,” said State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid, who attended the mountaintop announcement.
“The Grant Cottage State Historic Site project demonstrates historically significant structures can be brought up to modern day standards through the incorporation of clean energy resources such as solar and energy storage, thereby ensuring the preservation of these important historic landmarks,” said Doreen Harris, president and CEO of NYSERDA. “The state is leaving no stone unturned in reviewing its building stock — from commercial to residential to historical — in our fight on climate change, and I commend NYS Parks for its leadership role in this work.”
The $400,000 project included installation of 90 solar panels with a rated output of 34.2 kilowatts, as well as 48 batteries for storage of power for later use. The battery storage system will enable Grant’s Cottage to become the first State Parks facility to disconnect completely from the electric energy grid, the state agencies said.
State Parks staff who are trained solar technicians performed the installation, which includes a generator for emergency use. Training assistance was provided by staff from Hudson Valley Community College.
Previously, the Grant Cottage site was receiving electricity through utility lines from the nearby former Mount McGregor Correctional Facility, but the correctional facility closed in 2014.
“Today’s announcement that Grant’s Cottage will be going entirely off the grid and be the first State Park facility to do so is a fantastic development,” said state Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon.
“This project is an exciting blend of the past and the future,” said Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake. “I applaud this creative and practical innovation using current technology to help sustain this important historic site.”
Grant, diagnosed with terminal throat cancer, went to the cottage at the urging of publisher Mark Twain to complete his memoirs over the course of six weeks, immediately prior to his death in July 1885.
The cottage is open to the public from May through October each year, with staffing by the Friends of the Ulysses S. Grant Cottage. Visitors can tour its first-floor original furnishings, decorations, and personal items belonging to Grant. Tours are scheduled to resume in May.
The National Park Service named the site a National Historic Landmark in January.
Since 2012, State Parks has installed 33 solar array projects at facilities across the state, and the end of this year will cover about 15 percent of its total statewide energy consumption though solar power. By 2027, Parks officials said it has a goal of covering half of its electricity needs through renewable energy.